U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, announced Monday he was joining the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, a position held by his predecessor, Democrat Mike Michaud.

Poliquin made the announcement at the United Farmer Veterans of America building at 45 Columbia St. in downtown Bangor Monday morning. Poliquin, now in his second term, was one of eight new Republican congressmen to join the committee, according to a news release.

The House Committee on Veterans Affairs oversees agencies, reviews legislation and proposes bills or amendments regarding U.S. military veterans. The committee also oversees the Department of Veterans Affairs, veterans’ hospitals and veterans’ cemeteries, except those under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior.

“I am tremendously proud and excited to join the Veterans Affairs Committee where I can serve as an instrumental force on behalf of our more than 60,000 veterans in Maine’s 2nd District,” Poliquin said in the news release Monday. “Maine veterans now have a direct seat at the table in Congress on some of the biggest issues facing them and their services at the VA.

Gary Lawyerson, chairman of the Maine Veterans Coordinating Committee, said Poliquin’s staff is “fine tuned” to the veteran community, meaning those staffers can communicate the concerns of the veteran community to the congressman. He said it was good Poliquin was joining that committee, as it would benefit Maine.

Lawyerson praised the former Michaud staff as being receptive to veteran needs and communicating them to Michaud and said Poliquin’s staff is “basically doing the same thing.”

“It will be a good deal,” Lawyerson said.

Poliquin listed veterans affairs as a priority during his re-election campaign. However, during the recent campaign, he was targeted in a $500,000 ad by a veterans’ advocate group that faulted him for failing to support $1 billion in veterans affairs spending during his first term in Congress and that labeled him a “Wall Street banker.” Poliquin in the past has supported legislation to expand mental health care for veterans.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 64,000 veterans live in Maine’s 2nd District. Poliquin said in the release he was looking forward to working on behalf of veterans and to use this position to hold the VA “accountable” and to make sure the country fulfills its promises to veterans.

The committee was the touchstone of Poliquin’s predecessor, former Rep. Mike Michaud, who was the top Democrat on the committee in 2012. Following his unsuccessful bid for governor in 2014, Michaud was tapped by President Barack Obama to lead the Department of Labor agency dealing with veterans training and employment.

Maine’s 2nd Congressional District veterans are served by the VA Maine Healthcare Systems Togus.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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